At our LPL Financial annual advisor conference here in San Diego, we’re hosting bank and credit union investment program managers and advisors representing from more than 180 financial institutions of all shapes and sizes from across the country.

If there is one overriding theme from the financial institution advisors, it’s this: the pressure to perform is only growing. As low interest rates and sluggish loan demand continue to make healthy profit streams from traditional deposit and lending activities harder to come by at FIs, investment programs are increasingly viewed as a critical channel for generating non-interest income. 

By and large, the advisors representing these programs are delivering, evidenced by the fact that LPL programs are up 17% year-over-year and the industry as a whole is experiencing high single digit growth itself. Moreover, banks and credit unions are really just beginning to tap the opportunity in providing investment advice. In conversations and group meetings with advisors and managers here, we were able to identify five strategies that are most effectively helping to accelerate growth for bank and credit union wealth management programs.

  1. Grow your practice by optimizing your focus. Financial advisors have begun to realize they spend far too much time with their least profitable clients. On average, advisors spend as much as 45% of their time with clients who generate only about five percent of their revenue, and these clients are generally those with the lowest liquid net worth.

The best avenue for revenue growth is not to take on more clients, but to spend more time with your most profitable existing clients. By carefully segmenting and analyzing your book of business, you can determine which of your clients are either already the most profitable, or who have the greatest potential to be. These are the clients on whom you want to focus your time – and for whom you need to implement strategies for gaining more wallet share. 

The result may actually mean serving fewer, more profitable, clients. Although this may seem counterintuitive, several of our bank-based advisors have found that partnering with junior advisors or licensed branch employees within the institution to service a portion of their book has proven to be one of the most effective means of increasing their own business.

  1. Become more efficient by partnering with others at your institution.Spending more of your time with your A clients does not mean spurning the mass market or turning away less profitable clients. Rather, it means finding a way to serve them more efficiently.

Bank and credit union-based advisors will always have to deal with walk-ins and investors with limited means, and of course, new referrals will always be an important source of business expansion. The best way to deal with them efficiently, however, is to enlist the efforts of your financial institution colleagues to serve as your front line in attracting assets.

  1. Broaden your product mix. We’ve all seen how quickly markets can change. Products that worked well five and 10 years ago may no longer be appropriate today. Some advisors built their businesses primarily on interest-rate sensitive products that are no longer as popular in today’s low-interest-rate environment. This has translated into lost opportunities for the advisor as well as his or her institution.

A broader mix of products reduces the impact that market cycles can have on revenue generation. More importantly, it allows you to serve a broader spectrum of your client’s core financial needs, encompassing income generation, investment growth, protection (i.e., insurance for a broad range of needs, including life, disability, health care, etc.), and estate planning – in addition to the loan and deposit services provided by your institution’s other professionals.
In addition, LPL Financial bank and credit union advisors who do more fee-based business capture more client wallet share. An advisory-based model may be more profitable, and may encourage customer loyalty and enables you to deliver a superior client experience.

  1. Plan your activities carefully – and execute against your plan.  It’s important to map out a business plan for the year, but the more specific you can be – down to creating weekly and daily plans on an ongoing basis – and executing against them in a disciplined manner, the better you will optimize your time and maintain control of your business. 

Focus on sustainable, profitable activities.  Include time for:

  • Setting future appointments through disciplined outbound phone efforts to clients and prospects.
  • Meeting with clients, including setting service level commitments for A, B, and C clients.
  • Segmenting your book and analyzing your business. By knowing who are your best clients and how profitable is your business, you will be able to determine how you should be spending your time.
  • Prospecting for new business – by asking your best clients for referrals and by successfully wholesaling to your internal network and external centers of influence.
  • Marketing internally and externally. (Don’t forget social media!) Developing a unique value proposition and marketing it inside the financial institution and within your community will enable you to generate more referrals as well as connect with clients who aren’t coming into your institution’s branches.

All of these are important activities. Your ability to regularly track your success against plan, and make adjustments as necessary, will greatly help you in meeting your longer-range targets and goals. 

  1. Gain the support of your entire institution. The wealth management program is a valuable, integral part of your organization, and deserves its full support and recognition.

Households that buy investments and insurance may not only be the most profitable clients, they may also be the most loyal and may have higher total financial assets to bring to the institution than non-investment households.
But it is up to the advisor to get the word out and to build institutional support. To do so, conduct an ongoing lobbying effort, so that colleagues in every department understand your investment and wealth management program and its value proposition. Cultivate strong working relationships among key centers of influence, including commercial lenders, private bankers, trust officers, and branch employees.

If successful, you will remain “top of mind”, gain greater “shelf space” within your institution, and ultimately your colleagues will become advocates for your program and important referral sources for it among their own business clients.

Based on the experience of our advisors, and from the vantage point of our own experience, by focusing on these five strategies an advisor can dramatically change the growth trajectory of his or her business and greatly improve its potential.

Rob Comfort is Executive Vice President of Business Consulting at LPL Financial Institution Services (

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